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Energy

Federal commission extends operating license of Fermi 2

Nuclear power plant allowed to operate through March, 2045

NEWPORT, Mich. — The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission announced early today it has extended the operating license of DTE Energy’s Fermi 2 nuclear power plant in northern Monroe County another 20 years, through March 20, 2045.

"We've shown that we can operate well into the future and we look forward to future decades of providing safe, reliable electricity to our customers and our community in southeast Michigan," Paul Fessler, DTE senior vice president and chief nuclear officer at Fermi 2, said.

He said the license extension is "excellent news for Monroe County and Michigan."

The plant has 800 full-time workers, the utility said.

The decision ends a review process that began when DTE applied for the license extension on April 30, 2014, after the utility spent two putting together the application. It was challenged vigorously by several groups.

It also marks the 87th commercial nuclear power reactor which has been granted a 20-year extension by the NRC. None have been rejected by the agency, and three reactors that received extensions have since shut down.

Eight other applications remain pending before the NRC.

Fermi 2 is the largest of 23 U.S. reactors with the same type of General Electric design as those at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi complex, site of the major nuclear disaster on March 11, 2011 that began with an earthquake causing a tsunami.

Activists continue their campaign to educate people near Fermi 2 about the potential benefits of taking potassium iodide if there’s ever a meltdown there.

Approval came despite NRC online records showing several recent reports about Fermi 2’s secondary containment pressure boundary having issues that had to be reported to the government, per rules governing the plant. The latest occurred at 10:10 a.m. Thursday, involving a technical specification for secondary containment pressure boundary not being met for approximately one second.

Secondary containment pressure was returned and there “were no radiological releases associated with this event,” the notice said, which said such events or conditions “could have prevented the fulfillment of a safety function needed to control the release of radioactive material.”

Fermi 2 is about 30 miles north of downtown Toledo along the western Lake Erie shoreline.

NRC records show the plant began operating July 15, 1985. Its original license expires on March 20, 2025.

The NRC said its operating board agreed Wednesday to let the agency’s director of the Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulation issue the renewed license despite a pending motion before the NRC’s Atomic Safety and Licensing Board to reopen the adjudicatory hearing.

The request for that hearing, raised by Citizens’ Resistance at Fermi 2, or CRAFT, is over the potassium iodide issue. The group wants distribution between the required 10-mile evacuation zone, based partly because of lessons from Japan’s Fukushima disaster.

Contact Tom Henry at: thenry@theblade.com, 419-724-6079, or via Twitter @ecowriterohio.

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